TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

It looks very much like now until the end of the year we will be spending our Sundays watching various people act all panicky over the Fiscal Glyph that is dominating the news.

Good morning everyone and welcome once again to this quickly-typed liveblog of one man's observations of the flickering television screen on Sunday morning as the world slides toward the end of another calendar year. My name is Jason, and I hope that you had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend, and I apologize if being rid of me was a major part of its loveliness.

It looks very much like now until the end of the year we will be spending our Sundays watching various people act all panicky over the Fiscal Glyph that is dominating the news. Today, Tim Geithner makes an appearance, perhaps his last on a Sunday show, to talk about that junk and sum up the current status of these magical negotiations that everyone is having about taxes and earned benefit programs and tax loopholes and what not. There will be some yammering and some paneling and maybe some threats and garment rending, and maybe this will be the scene in Act One where we see the gun that will be fired in Act Five, or something. I will watch it all, and pretend to care, so that you don't have to do any of those things.

I will now make some plugs of the shameless variety. The most recent issue of The Baffler is out and for some reason its esteemed editors invited me to write a piece for it, and so if you'd like to procure it from a bookstore, or subscribe, or use Amazon's "Whispernet" (the sexiest of all the wifi networks) to Kindle it up, I would be grateful. Plus there are articles from other fine people like Will Boisvert, Ana Marie Cox, Barbara Ehrenreich, Belén Fernández, Thomas Frank, Chris Lehmann, Jason Linkins, Josh MacPhee, Jim Newell, Alex Pareene, Rick Perlstein, Dubravka Ugrešić, and Eugenia Williamson. So it's kind of a murderer's row.

Also, if you are in the Washington DC area and enjoy live theatre and eschatology and things that only happen for one night, then what a treat I have for you! Rorschach Theatre is doing their latest "Klecksography" project -- short, sharp plays conceived and performed in a short amount of time -- and this time it is about the End Of The World, whimper and bang, fire and ice, et cetera. It should be fun! If it sounds like something you'd be into, and you're free December 8, you can get tickets and information here.

Or maybe you've already got some really cool plans for that day, I don't know? You all probably have rich and fulfilling lives of your own, with standing weekly brunch dates and everything.

Okay, well, you know the deal. Please feel free to hang out in the comments. If you'd like to drop me a line, please do. Also, like usual I have social media thingies of interest, like my Twitter account, and also my RebelMouse page, which has been set up today, once again, with a bunch of interesting articles from the interwebs this week that you may enjoy while you are waiting for me to do more typing. And as always, if you are having iPad troubles, keep calm and use Safari.


Chris Wallace says that we now have 30 days till we "go over" the "fiscal cliff." I'm all a'scurred, pa! What will become of us? To answer those questions, we have Tim Geithner and John Boehner, who are, perhaps coincidentally the two people America wants least to explain sex to their children, according to surveys.

So, what's up with the White House's fiscal cliff proposal? Wallace tells Timmy that Boehner thought it wasn't a serious proposal and Senator Mitch McConnell cracked open his yaw and issued a LOL -- a very Senatoral LOL -- at the White House's proposal, despite the fact that neither man has offered anything and have actually demanded that the White House make their demands, for them, so that they can reject it as not being serious.

Memo to all you op-ed writers who have autoerotic fixations on "Grand Bargains": y'all aren't going to continue to pretend that there's any party other than Congressional Republicans that have prevented the budget ball from moving forward in the past three years, are you? I'm going to let Michael Grunwald explain:

It’s really amazing to see political reporters dutifully passing along Republican complaints that President Obama’s opening offer in the fiscal cliff talks is just a recycled version of his old plan, when those same reporters spent the last year dutifully passing along Republican complaints that Obama had no plan. It’s even more amazing to see them pass along Republican outrage that Obama isn’t cutting Medicare enough, in the same matter-of-fact tone they used during the campaign to pass along Republican outrage that Obama was cutting Medicare.

This isn’t just cognitive dissonance. It’s irresponsible reporting. Mainstream media outlets don’t want to look partisan, so they ignore the BS hidden in plain sight, the hypocrisy and dishonesty that defines the modern Republican Party. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans insisted that anyone who said they wanted to cut Medicare was a demagogue, because I’m more than three weeks old.

And I'll let Grunwald point everyone in the direction of some new rules that I'll expect everyone to follow:

I realize that the GOP’s up-is-downism puts news reporters in an awkward position. It would seem tendentious to point out Republican hypocrisy on deficits and Medicare and stimulus every time it comes up, because these days it comes up almost every time a Republican leader opens his mouth. But we’re not supposed to be stenographers. As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day.

Maybe then we can actually have an agreement. Maybe then the agreement can be something that both sides actually like! Maybe the agreement itself will be good for the country, but I'm probably getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, Geither says that the GOP is in a "hard spot," and that the White House has presented a "very good set of proposals" in a responsible way, and if anyone has any special ideas, they should maybe send him an email or something. Wallace questions him on the "hard spot" remark, and Geithner essentially says that the GOP is holding no leverage, and it's time for them to sign their name to something, instead of being passive-aggressive.

Geithner and Wallace have a brief slapfight over who gets to lay out the plan, they evetually settle on Wallace being allowed to lay out the White House's plan in a totally misleading way. Wallace does so, noting the White House's position on revenue increases, stimulus, and spending cuts. Geithner says, cool bro, now here's all the stuff you left out: there's $600 billion in Medicare cuts that are specifically detailed and have gone beyond what the GOP wants. It's also part of the White House's budget proposal.

Wallace says, "But that was the budget that was voted down 99-0 in the Senate." Wallace is either misinformed, stupid, or just lying -- the budget vote he is referring to is a vote taken on a budget proposal offered by a Republican Senator named Jeff Sessions that was presented to the media as a "vote on the Obama budget" which they swallowed and regurgitated as such. Sessions' people and GOP budget committee flacks hate it when I point this out, but I don't really care about their feelings, this was some reindeer games B.S. and it's a small part of why we're all standing here in December pretending that there's a "fiscal cliff."

Geithner goes on to point out that the American people have "found no merit" in the GOP's previous plan, and Wallace continues to equate that with the 99-0 vote on the Potemkin budget, like a doofus.

Geithner just keeps saying, essentially: This is our budget proposal and it's the only budget proposal anyone in the "fiscal cliff" talks has proposed, so everyone can bite me.

Wallace wants to harp on the fact that their proposal includes only "unspecified savings" on "non-entitlement programs," which I gather refers to the domestic discretionary budget. I don't know why he's so snarky on that. First off, if we get big savings to that side of the budget, it's only going to come out of the Congressional sausage-making process, and they could bloody well stand to pitch in a little work on something for once. Second, the reason we're "going over the fiscal cliff" is because the sequester makes cuts to that side of the budget that everyone agreed to, but now everybody hates.

And third, "unspecified cuts to non-entitlement programs" is basically the thing that the Paul Ryan budget plan did, and everyone in Washington -- Chris Wallace included -- thinks that was AMAZING and DREAMY.

Geithner has to sit back and explain why their plan is a "net cut" -- they will replace the "damaging cuts in the sequester" with substantial "upfront cuts" but if they want it to be specific, then they will actually have to start contributing.

Geithner also points out that their proposal doesn't raise taxes as hard as the much-beloved but little-understood Simpson-Bowles proposal (which, by the way, begins from the premise that we're living in a world where the Bush tax cuts on top earners is bye-bye-bye).

How disastrous will it be if we "go over the fiscal cliff?" Geithner allows that it will be damaging to the economy, but doesn't exactly set his hair on fire, and points out that it's eminently avoidable. Going over the cliff threatens to damage our already anemic GDP, and impact our current unemployment and aggregate demand crises. Of course, if we "go over the fiscal cliff," right off the bat the Bush tax cuts go away and everyone in Congress gets to do some merry tax-cutting! And then everyone can still go about their budget making sensibly, avoid the sequester cuts (which wind out over the course of many months), and the best thing of all is that in an "over the cliff" environment, all of Pete Peterson's hellhounds lose most of their leverage, and ushering those people to the other side of the bridges that lead into DC would be a proud moment for our nation. (It would also be the District of Columbia's second "March of the Prostitutes.")

Can Geithner guarantee we won't "go over the fiscal cliff?" He says no, of course, because if the GOP keeps sitting around in a puddle of their own poop, baying at each other in frustration, we'll probably go over, and then we'll start negotiating all over again, in a world where the GOP gets the blame for everything bad that happens, according to polls.

Geithner will be doing this all day on all the Sunday shows, so we'll encounter this at least one other time. Meanwhile, here's John Boehner, who calls the White House's plan a "non-serious proposal" because it has more spending than he wants. Boehner is especially upset that they put stimulus spending in the proposal, almost as if a) someone who currently resides in the White House won an election, and b) all negotiations start with an "opening offer" that represents the beginning of bargaining.

The astounding thing about Obama's opening offer, frankly, is that unlike previous bargaining sessions -- like, say, the one that took place over health care -- he didn't sell out his liberal base right from jump street and offer something traditionally centrist or conservative.

But Boehner says he's "flabbergasted" by a proposal he never saw coming, because John Boehner apparently never read a single newspaper article documenting Obama's desire to restore tax rates for top earners to the Clinton-era levels, or an article that mentioned the whole "American Jobs Act" he put before Congress, that included stimulus spending. Yep, this was just all way out of the blue, to John Boehner, who gets all his news from the bottoms of Bourbon bottles.

Boehner says "we've put a serious offer by putting revenues up there" which only indicates that the GOP has whispered an admission that they're "okay" with "revenues." That's not actually a proposal, of any kind! That's like saying that you helped out the planning and preparation for Christmas dinner by saying, through a spokesman, that you would be "open to having some food."

Boehner also says that it's silly to expect Congress to give up its power to loudly threaten the global economy by continually holding the debt ceiling hostage, which is just downright sociopathic. In my world, we'd take away Congress' right to play "shoot-the-bunny" with the debt ceiling and we'd take away the White House's "secret drone army thrill-kill list with American citizens on it and no due process" because these things are both completely, utterly nuts to me. They are the toys of that psychotic little child from that Twilight Zone episode, "It's A Good Life."

Here's the "hard spot" that Geithner pointed out the GOP is in: Boehner has to insist, because of politics, that the White House's proposal with "slow the economy" but the bigger problem is that the "fiscal cliff" scenario is, as portrayed, epically worse. Meanwhile, the public has now endorsed the basics of the White House's proposals, through this thing called an "election." The inevitable solution will probably be more to the GOP's liking than the "opening bid," but if the White House is smart (and it remains an open question as to whether they are, frankly, along with Congressional Democrats!) they won't budge on the true budget contours of what they want to do, and what the public has endorsed.

Boehner says that they really have put forward a plan, with lots of specifics and what-not, but that just isn't true. What he cites today, is nothing more than Mitt Romney's "close loopholes, and pretend that the math works" proposal, and the last time I checked the GOP was excommunicating poor old Mitt. Wallace asks for the biggest single post-election idea that the GOP has had to offer, and Boehner just basically cites a bunch of Romney-things, and theorizes that they might be neato-keen-bean if we enacted them. Wallace asks if he'd be willing to reform mortgage deductions, and Boehner just clams up: "I'm not going to negotiate this with you." Well, at least he's consistent in his "no negotiating, no proposal-making" process.

Sooner or later, Boehner is going to have to get serious. (It's possible, of course, that his recalcitrance is just a put-on act that he's got to perform for a while to earn, or keep, the respect of his fellow House Republicans.

Boehner, in fact, pointedly refused to explain what happened to the "Grand Bargain" that he'd worked out with Obama in previous negotiations:

WALLACE: Is it true that the President offered to raise the eligibility age for Medicare and slow cost of living adjustments for Social Security when you were in your debt talks in August of 2011?

BOEHNER: It was on the table. Did the president agree to it? [LONG PAUSE] He may have been close to an agreement to it. If he agreed to it, we might not have this problem today.

That long pause above was fun to watch on teevee, because it was essentially watching a man steel himself to lie out loud. In actuality, that stuff had been agreed to, on both sides, but Boehner couldn't get the total deal past his caucus, and that's how it came to pass that a budget deal that virtually any Republican Congress in history would have salivated over the possibility of getting giftwrapped from a Democratic president came to be a non-starter.

"There are a lot of items on the table," says Boehner. Is this the same table on which we are keeping our Iran deterrents?

Boehner tries to suggest that Obama is holding America hostage in this process, but that's problematic, considering that Obama's the only person who's offered anything preventative. It's also kind of hilarious, considering the fact that a few minutes ago, John Boehner said that he would reserve the right to take hostages using the debt ceiling, like a dime-store sociopath.

"I don't want any part of going over the cliff," says Boehner. That's okay, because it's not actually a cliff! But yes, if he's got any hope in getting anything he wants, he'll have to get it on this side of New Year's Eve. But he'll actually have to start taking the bargaining process seriously.

The good news though is that he's got a Democratic President who will probably accede to a lot of Republican stuff because a long time ago he decided that being agreeable with Republicans, and making civil compromises with the loyal opposition was going to be part of his "legacy," so if Boehner just calms everyone down and takes advantage of that, he'll be remembered as a really good House Speaker in GOP circles.

Okay, I guess it's time to panel with Bill Kristol and Mara Liasson and Ed Rollins and K Street brood-mare Evan Bayh.

Kristol says that "both" Boehner and Geithner "made their case well" but the simple fact of the matter is that, to his estimation, Geithner is in the stronger position and that the White House is the one that typically wins fights like these. Liasson adds that we're in a period of "kabuki theater" in which each side sort of throws warlike poses for the benefit of their partisan rank-and-file, before ultimately succumbing to the realities of leverage.

She adds that everything could be headed for a "little bit of falling off the cliff" but even that wouldn't be a huge disaster.

So far, I think that Kristol and Liasson have thus tag-teamed for the Real Talk award today.

Rollins says that it's absurd to expect Congress to give up the right to raise the debt limit. The debt limit is, itself, absurd. "Raising the debt ceiling" is what we have to do to signal to the economy that we plan to actually hold to the budget promises that have already been made. I have promised Dominion Power that I will pay for electricity. I have promised my landlord that I will pay rent. I don't actually get to tell those counterparties, "Hey, turns out I need to trim my budget and you guys no longer fit into the picture." I mean, I can say that, I suppose. But while I save that money, what happens is they turn my power off and I get evicted.

Bayh says that all of this is, as Liasson suggested, a bunch of theater, and the opening bid to a longer period of negotiation. He predicts that Obama will "surprise" people by giving in on earned benefit reforms. (Like I said, being known as the guy who got along with his opposition is a pre-planned part of Obama's "legacy.")

Shall we yammer about some non-fiscal cliff stuff? We shall! How about Susan Rice? Bayh says that it's an "open question" as to whether John McCain and Lindsey Graham are being open-minded, and that Susan Rice is "getting a bum rap." I actually think that if you want a slam-dunk reason to disqualify Susan Rice from the position of Secretary of State (I mean, beyond the fact that she's actually very warry and bomby, like, ironically, John McCain), it's the fact that she "has millions of dollars tied up in top Canadian energy companies — including TransCanada, the company pushing for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline." And since the State Department will be tied up in whether or not that all happens, she's a no-go for the position.

This is not something that Evan Bayh is likely to criticize Rice over, however. Viva regulatory capture, and all that. He does predict that Obama will "go forward" with her nomination. Rollins says that he "is not a Rice fan" (too bad, I love a good risotto) but he reckons the White House will win that fight.

How does the panel feel about the UN making the Palestinians an "observer state?" Liasson is pretty sure that it's a "step forward for the Palestinians" but a step back for peace talks. Kristol throws similar shade on it, saying that there are no prospects for peace and we are "going to go over a real cliff" and OKAY GUYS WE NEED A NEW TOPOGRAPHIC METAPHOR BECAUSE I'M DONE WITH CLIFFS.

Bayh says that the emergence of Islamist regimes in Egypt and Syria would be bad for democracy -- I guess that ol' Bashir is good for democracy? He adds, however, that the bad signs (Morsi trying to subvert his country's judiciary) are balanced in part by the positive signs that organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood are learned, slowly, that the practical demands of state-maintenance are keeping their sails trimmed somewhat.

Bill Kristol asks, "Where is America in all of this?" and the answer is "Bogged down in an expensive and unwinnable war in the Graveyard of Empires, you?"


I am cheating and watching this show again this week because I actually have to bring an important dish to a potluck later, upon which many people are depending. This is December, people! Every weekend is pretty much planned from now till Epiphany! So, if you'll permit me, we make another trip to the Genius Bar of Politics, to talk with Chris Matthews and his Scooby Gang of Richard Stengel, Katty Kay, Gloria Borger, and John Heilemann.

Let's get to the edge of the wuthering heights of the fiscal cliff, shall we? Stengel says that Obama has all sorts of advantages in the fiscal cliff discussions, because he's won an election and his desire to reset the tax rates of top income earners is widely supported.

Matthews acknowledges that the "cement is cracking" on taxes, but what about spending? Kay says that this week has been one in which Grover Norquist has been abandoned in droves by his former be-pledged subjects, but the spending side remains wiry. Obama would prefer that the GOP state their preferences on spending, she says, and get them on the record, because in the "nitty-gritty" this means that someone has to be the bad guy who says we'll be spending less on Medicare and Social Security, and the White House would rather the GOP be that bad guy. (In fairness, they are the ones who care most about limiting the well-being of elderly Americans.)

Now, Kay is the one who injects Social Security into the conversation. It would be optimal for Social Security to not come up at all in the fiscal cliff discussion because Social Security is not a driver of long term debt and can be solved by simply removing the income caps on contributions.

Borger reckons that the endgame here is that the leaders on both sides of the aisle cobble together enough of their caucuses to pass a deal, and leave their edgier members behind. Not sure about that! That's all from the bipartisanship-cult's hymnal. Heilemann's take is that Obama reckons the election has proven to everyone that he doesn't need to negotiate.

"Is he able to be hardball, and get it done this month?" Matthews asks. Heilemann imagines that it's possible. He reckons that Obama will end up with an offer that resembles his previous "grand bargain" and that the Democratic caucus has had plenty of time to get up to speed with the fact that it's the best deal they're going to get, and they'll be behind it. The open question is whether the GOP caucus feels the same way.

Matthews asks if there's a real fear that cuts to earned benefits would cost anyone their seats. Stengel reckons that the left would be fearful about how their constituents would react to changes in Social Security and Medicare, and they'll have to be bought off with promises of an effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform and the like. Borger disagrees and says that the President just needs to tell "the left" that they are getting an opportunity to help him shape fiscal policy and that the time has come for them to get on board.

What Stengel and Borger both don't seem to understand (because they are notoriously thick in the head) is that "the left" has not been an impediment to any of this budget deal making! They've not been responsible for the scuttling of any deals. It's Boehner's crew that done killed the deals, you two. Borger is probably right that there will be a few Democrats that don't like the deal, but they are TOTALLY IRRELEVANT TO THE DISCUSSION. Borger is getting all shirty with the wrong party.

Matthews wants to know if at the end of the fiscal cliff negotiations, will "the President look big." Oh, for f--k's sake. Who cares? The President is going to be a rich, well-liked person in America from now until the end of his life. He's plenty "big." The question should be, "At the end of the negotiations will we have policies that actually benefit the American people?" And the answer to that is, "We should actually be trying to solve the current economic crisis that is actually happening and not the long-term budget trajectory of the country."

Heilemann, for what it's worth, thinks that Obama is heading for success, and thus "embiggening" as Matthews would like, but it will probably involve "going over the cliff" a little bit. Matthews mutters that that's what he's worried about, which can't possibly be true! Anyway, he's not so terrified of the fiscal topography that he won't spend the next few minutes of his time infomercialling for the new Bill Murray movie, "Hyde Park On Hudson," and his book on the Kennedys.

For some reason, we're going to talk about that email that this British guy, Nick Crews, sent to his kids, expressing his disappointment that they all grew up to be such terrible people. This is not news, and I fundamentally reject that there's any larger lesson for society to learn because there is this terrible family full of terrible people. Go read "Anna Karenina" and calm down. But if you ask me, I'm going to make the assumption that Nick Crews was just a rotten father and that he's probably to blame for his kids being such pathetic losers.

Most of the accounts of this letter lean heavily on the fact that this Crews fellow was "a retired officer of the British Royal Navy," but so what? Does Nick Crews have a statue of himself in Trafalgar Square? No? Okay, please stop acting like this man and his kids and their lives have any relevance to anyone else's. They're a sad bunch, it sounds like, so we should just point at them and laugh, as opposed to assembling pundits to gum-flap over it.

Things that Chris Matthews doesn't know include the fact that Time Magazine has a cover story that Stengel wants to spend a few minutes flacking for on this show. Also, Kay says that everyone needs better, faster internet speeds in America. Borger says that the GOP needs to mount better political campaigns. (I'm pretty sure Chris Matthews already knew this.) Heilemann says that Jack Lew will probably move to Treasury to take over for Geithner, which means everyone in the Beltway media will be jumping up and down like meerkats in a meth lab about who the next White House Chief of Staff is going to be and What It All Means, and how the Washington cocktail circuit will be inexorable affected.

Chris Matthews' wants to know from the Scooby Gang if Romney or Obama had any qualities that made the election result predictable. (You know, maybe one of them smelled vaguely of cheese?) Stengel says that "Obama represented the future of America and Romney represented the past." To which Matthews replied, "Pepsi and Coke." Wait, is Pepsi "the future of America?" WHAT IS CHRIS MATTHEWS TALKING ABOUT?

Kay says that "one think that American voters always seem to want is authenticity." (Which explains David Cameron, I guess!) She goes on to try to explain further but Matthews cuts her off and says, "Katty, I think you've got it." Okay, but she actually had some nuanced things to say about -- oh, piss it, never mind.

Borger says that Obama is a "deep competitor who hates to lose, not that Romney isn't" and then some blah blah blah about being a "clutch player" and a "planner" and Matthews eventually has to mansplain her point for her, the end.

Heilemann says that Romney demonstrated a certain amount of "opacity" that prevented people from seeing his "core." Yeah, maybe!


Once again, we'll have Tim Geithner, traveling from Sunday show to Sunday show, and a panel discussion with Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Dan Senor and Steven Rattner and Cokie Roberts.

Stephanopoulos says that we are thirty days away from "hitting" the fiscal cliff, and I mean -- are we atop the cliff and about to go over or are we at the bottom of the cliff and perhaps about collide with it, for some reason? Can we have a meeting, and decide on how we are going to use this unnecessarily panicky metaphor, going forward, please?

Welp, Tim Geithner is here to talk about the ongoing, and rather one-sided, negotiations that the White House is having with the Russian nesting doll that is the House GOP caucus. How does he feel about the GOP reaction? Geithner reiterates that all the "political theater" is actually a "sign of progress." I think he's specifically referencing the fact that in the theater, people come to see a play, that has a plot that "progresses" and eventually "ends" without anyone getting "killed" (and yes, President Abraham Lincoln is "the exception that proves the rule").

Geithner gives details on the whole, "let's get rid of the weaponized debt ceiling nonsense, to save America from the brutal stupidity of Congress" plan that was part of the White House's "opening bid":

GEITHNER: Let me tell you what we propose, what we think makes sense. And let me start with part of what you said, which is how to make sure we're lifting the threat of default over the American economy, over the credit of the United States, over the savings of Americans. What we've proposed is to take an idea that Senator McConnell proposed last-- in the summer of 2011 and just extend that. And what that does is, again, lift the cloud of default over the economy 'cause the president has to periodically propose an increase in the debt limit. And Congress then has a chance to express its view to disapprove that. And it was a very smart way by a senator with impeccable Republican credentials to again, lift this periodic threat of default in the American economy. And that's an essential thing for us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said he never intended it to be permanent.

GEITHNER: But, you know, again, it was a good idea then, it’s a good idea going forward. And again, it came from him. It wasn't our idea.

If Romney had been elected, the Congressional GOP would be falling all over themselves to prevent anyone from doing anything but submitting to his requests for clean debt-ceiling raises.

Anyway, not much here that we didn't hear earlier: Geithner is the calm face of reasonably predicting eventual success. “We think we have a very good plan, a very good mix of tax reforms that raise a modest amount of revenue on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, combined with very comprehensive, very well designed, very detailed savings that get us back to the point where our debt is stable and sustainable...We’re prepared to, in a separate process, look at how to strengthen Social Security. But not as part of a process to reduce the other deficits the country faces." That's precisely correct.

As for the next part of the negotiations, Geithner says that it's the GOP's turn to pony up an offer: "When they come back to us and say, ‘We’d like you to consider this. And we’d like you to consider that,’ we’ll take a look at that.”

He warns: “Look, there’s a huge amount at stake here in this economy, George. And there’s just no reason why 98 percent of Americans have to see their taxes go up because some members of Congress on the Republican side want to block tax rate increases for 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans. Remember, those tax rates, those tax cuts, cost a trillion dollars over 10 years.”

Stephanopoulos points out the fact that the bargaining position for this policy preference actually gets better if we "go over the fiscal cliff," but Geithner says, "I don't think that's gonna happen. It certainly doesn't need to happen. And we're gonna work very hard to make sure it doesn't happen."

Lastly, Stephaopoulos points out that "it was interesting to see this week that Warren Buffett thinks your best replacement would be Jamie Dimon." That sure would be interesting, to have the guy who lost London Whale-sized billions on something that's been hilariously described as a "hedge" to run the Treasury, wouldn't it? Geithner neither suggests it would be a good idea or a bad one.

Okay, let's polish this day off with a hot round of panel-banging with the aforementioned Cole and Ellison and Senor and Rattner and Roberts.

Roberts says that this week has not been an encouraging week for people who long to not go over the fiscal cliff, and of course the opening bid from the White House was one the GOP couldn't accept. Cole says that the Geithner offer sheet "united the GOP caucus" but in case you thought that represented serious-and-for-real hardball he immediately demurs and says, well, you know we'll probably hammer out a deal, okay.

Ellison says that he won't accede to a deal that requires poor, elderly people to assume the budget burden -- shots fired! But he also demurs and says, that Cole is right and they'll probably hammer out a deal, okay, whatever.

Senor thinks that Obama is risking making the atmosphere "toxic" by playing hardball on the fiscal cliff, and that even if he wins, he'll get a lot of blowback from the public. Not only is that wrong, but in the end, Obama probably won't be playing "hardball" that hard. The GOP, if they can clear their heads of Tea Party nuttery, will probably end up with a deal full of stuff that they will a) like a lot and b) be able to recognize that they don't traditionally get offered by a Democratic president.

But, we'll see! It would be moderately gangsta if Obama is willing to offer Boehner worse terms than the previous "grand bargain" they'd hammered out, just as a way of reinforcing the consequences of the election. (But contra Chris Rock, I'll say again that Obama's legacy preference seems to be "gentleman deal broker" and not some "partisan hero.")

Cole says: "If only Nixon can go to China, only Obama can fix entitlements. I mean, this is preeminently where a president has to lead and be specific. You can't expect the Republicans to lead on an area that he's dominated in politically." Ha, well, if that truly is Cole's position, then he can just sit back and take the White House's unilateral proposals on earned benefit programs and like it. Be a good little boy and let yourself be dominated!

Senor complains, "[Obama]'s not sitting it down grinding out with John Boehner, he's out giving speeches, rallying his base, getting Obama for America very organized, meeting with groups like" Danny, it's a little late in the day to be getting all emo about the fact that the president has public support for his policy proposals? I mean, the election happened, kiddo. (Also, if anyone at can confirm to me that President Obama has even said word one to y'all about the fiscal cliff, I'd really love to know that, because Senor is describing an extraordinary event in the life of Obama's relationship with progressives! Obama going to MoveOn? That is more in line with the Nixon-to-China metaphor.)

Rattner says that Democrats "have to face up to some fundamental realities," and that includes cuts or reforms to earned benefits, and making the "math" work. The latter is the stronger need -- Obama's case during the election year was that Romney and Ryan were presenting an innumerate tax plan, after all! But Ellison points out that Obamacare itself helped make the Medicare system more solvent, and that "people should continue down that road."

"We are seeingn people's retirement package reduced," he says, "We have seen people's individual savings, their employment related retirement savings go down, you know, you cannot keep on seeing 401(k)s go down and savings rates go down and then say we're going to cut the other stuff that people can count on."

Moving on to Grover Norquist and his needs and wants. Grover remains insistent that his pledgees hew to his dictates, saying, "If Republicans lose in such a way they got their fingerprints on the murder weapon then you have a problem. I mean, Bush couldn't run again in 1992 successfully because he had his fingerprints on a very bad deal, which was bad on spending and bad on taxes and he broke his word."

Stephanopoulous asks Cole if Norquist is "right about those politics." Cole says, "You know, I think not actually not, actually, but I think you have to remember our fingerprints aren't on this if we cooperate with the president and make 80 percent of the Bush tax cuts permanent for 98 percent of the American people. That's a victory not a loss. And then we're still free to try and fight the fight over higher rates, offering revenue, which the speaker has put on the table. Politically to me, that seems to be a much superior position than a messy deal at the end where it looks like we caved. I think we have the opportunity to take the initiative and actually, again, move the discussion on entitlements."

Ha, hold on there: "I think we have the opportunity to take the initiative and actually, again, move the discussion on entitlements." I seem to recall Cole saying on this very same show: "If only Nixon can go to China, only Obama can fix entitlements. I mean, this is preeminently where a president has to lead and be specific. You can't expect the Republicans to lead on an area that he's dominated in politically."

That's quite a turnaround! I don't know what life-changing event Tom Cole experienced during the commercial break, but he's a totally different person, now!

Roberts says, "It's politically smart to cut the knees out from under Grover Norquist...I mean, this guy -- I mean, who is he?"

There is some further discussion about who is more fiscally responsible than who, but I can't stop thinking about how massive Steve Rattner's forehead is. I wonder if tiny, mitochonrial space shuttles, piloted by amoebas, dream of one day landing on Steve Rattner's forehead?

It is a gigantic forehead, is what I am saying.

Will the deal get done by January 1? Everyone says yes, except for George Stephanopoulos.

Now we are moving on to Susan Rice. Roberts reckons that some of the anger being projected at Rice is coming from Senators that need to stand up and get rage-faced for their conservative base so that they can survive upcoming primaries -- looking at you, Lindsey Graham. Senor, however, says that Susan Collins and Bob Corker don't fit that description. He questions whether it was wise for the White House to present her as a nominee, without her actually being the nominee. Roberts notes that if she really was a nominee for the State Department, "there would be a whole political infrastructure" supporting her, and there isn't. Ellison notes the irony of John McCain tearing apart the woman who secured him the chance to get all joy-boy over the sight of bombs falling on Libya.

"Talk radio is just full of Benghazi," says Roberts. That's not the only substance that "talk radio" is "full of!"

Senor says, "Look, I think everyone understands that John Kerry is going to be nominated for something." Really? "This idea that they're holding up Susan Rice because of this plan to get Scott Brown maybe elected, I think it's just too much." It probably is too much! But that doesn't necessarily mean that Kerry will get a nomination. Obama nominated Sebellius and Napolitano and the unintended consequences were real.

Anyway, again, people should oppose Susan Rice because of her financial interests in Canadian oil sands, not because of something she said on a Sunday morning chat show! The whole point of Sunday morning chat shows is to vent stupidity into the atmosphere.

Speaking of! I did some checking this weekend and realized to today marks the fifth anniversary of this weekly Sunday Morning liveblog of the political chat shows. December 2, 2007 was the first one of these things, which we sort of undertook on the hope that people would come read my quickly typed nonsense and decide to come back every week. And somehow, that is exactly what happened!

Of course, it should be said that five years into this project of waking up on Sunday morning, throwing a gallon of coffee at my mouth and shaking my fists at the teevee screen has accomplished...well, sod all, really. I mean, these shows are still pretty terrible. Meet The Press is like staring into the deepest cellar of futility and watching spiders dance on the corpse of hope.

But I nevertheless continue to be thankful to all of you who have made it possible for this to continue, by coming out every week to read it, by affirming its value, and making the case for it to continue. That really humbles me. I am really grateful.

And I am really sorry that in five years, I haven't actually fixed America for all of you! But I probably need just one or two more years. Three at the most, okay?

[The Sunday morning liveblog returns on December 9. In the meanwhile, check out my Rebel Mouse page, which is set up with lots of fun and diverting stories from around the web.]

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